Barbara Inez “Tad” Barnes Lucas
September 1, 1902 – February 23, 1990
Barbara Inez “Tad” Barnes began riding at such a young age she could never remember not being on a horse. She helped her brothers break colts by age seven, and often rode calves for amusement. She also participated in horseback races and contests against other ranch children and local Sioux Indians.
Making her professional debut at the Gordon, Nebraska, Fair in 1917, Tad became a full time professional cowgirl in 1922. In 1923, she toured the United States and Mexico with a Wild West show, and took second in bronc riding at the prestigious Madison Square Garden Rodeo. Tad and cowboy James Edward “Buck” Lucas were among the stars selected to compete at a major international rodeo at Wembley Stadium in London, England in June of 1924. While in New York City awaiting departure, Tad and Buck were married and their honeymoon was the voyage to London. At Wembley, Tad first performed as a trick rider, the contest which would earn her greatest fame.
After returning from England, Tad and Buck built a home in Fort Worth, the city where she lived until her death. From the mid-1920s through 1942, Tad won virtually every major prize offered to women in rodeo. She competed in bronc riding, trick riding, and relay racing. She won three times in succession the $10,000 MGM Trophy, awarded to the champion all-around cowgirl at Madison Square Garden, where she also won the trick riding title five times. She captured major prizes at Cheyenne Frontier Days, winning six trick riding titles, as well as several awards in relay racing and bronc riding. In addition, she won rodeos in Boston, Chicago, Houston, Fort Worth and Sidney, Australia.
During World War II women’s contests were dropped from the major rodeo circuit, yet Lucas continued as a performer and official. She became one of the charter members of the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association (originally the Girl’s Rodeo Association) in 1948, remaining active with that group until her retirement in 1958.
As of 1990, she was the only person honored by all three rodeo halls of fame, having been elected to the National Rodeo Hall of Fame in 1967, the National Cowgirl Hall of Fame in 1978, and the Prorodeo Hall of Fame in 1979. Tad Lucas is still considered the greatest rodeo cowgirl of all time and was the most successful, most popular, and most famous woman in rodeo history.